Tuesday 13 November 2012

The Mountain Goats - Transcendental Youth

do every stupid thing that makes you feel alive
do every stupid thing to try to drive the dark away

the mountain goats, amy aka spent gladiator 1

I don't think I've felt a record to be absolutely necessary as much as this one in quite some time. I mean, Wild Flag feels necessary - this combination of musical fervour and talent and experience - but The Mountain Goats' Transcendental Youth is something else. It's a record with a theme - coping with your own personal demons, mental illness, depression paranoia - and it follows characters who either develop their own strategies to deal with their respective ailments or fail tragically, like Amy from the first song of the record did, like the guy in Lakeside View Apartment Suite, and addict who is awaiting death ("You can't judge us - you're not the judge"), like Frankie Lymon in Harlem Roulette, a Rock'n'Roll and Blues singer who died of a heroin overdose in 1968, aged 25 ("The loneliest people in the whole wide world are the ones you're never going to see again."). 
Nobody could sing Cry for Judas with that much exuberance, lines like "I am just a broken machine / and I do things that I don't really mean" as if they were a celebration of how brilliant yet incredibly fucked up life can be - it's like a party for a capitulation, almost. This is the most necessary and wonderful record - a record about people who manage to survive in the face of horrible, horrible things, and people who lose tragically, and people who take care of those who struggle and desperately try to hold on to their own sanity as they do. 
The Diaz Brothers is about fictional siblings referenced in Scarface, who once they enter the narrative are already dead. Counterfeit Florida Plates is a precise description of a paranoid schizophrenic, A Memory of Satan (the most haunting one, for me), the tale of a depressive shut-in who, instead of seeking traditional help, tries to figure out his issues in his own, quiet way ("In old movies people scream
Choking on their fists when they see shadows like these / But no one screams cuz it's just me / Locked up in myself / Never gonna get free"). 
Whatever you have to do, just stay alive. Stay forever alive, if you can. John Darnielle just made the best record of the year but more importantly, one of the most essential and necessary in maybe a decade. "Don't hurt anybody on your way up to the light" is the best advice you will ever get. 

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